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14 Bares Tip owners initially fined over septic before issue is resolved, complaints waived

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 1/9/19

Fourteen property owners on Bares Tip on Shelley Island in the Susquehanna River were cited after they failed to have their septic systems pumped and inspected by the end of last June.

However, …

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14 Bares Tip owners initially fined over septic before issue is resolved, complaints waived

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Fourteen property owners on Bares Tip on Shelley Island in the Susquehanna River were cited after they failed to have their septic systems pumped and inspected by the end of last June.

However, the complaints were withdrawn after the residents were able to have the inspections completed. A discussion of the issue occurred at Monday’s Londonderry Township Board of Supervisors meeting.

Township staff did not immediately respond to questions on how much the fine would have been or whether other island residents had been fined.

Township solicitor Jim Diamond said the 14 lots didn’t get inspected due to weather, and the township codes department issued notices of enforcement which later became citations filed with District Judge David Judy for fines.

“To our kind of pleasant surprise, actually, the owners were able to find a company go out there, and they’ve already got the inspections done and had the reports in,” Diamond said at the meeting.

“I’m glad that they accepted what we did. None of us wanted to go through this,” said Brian Hafer, one of the Bares Tip residents.

The board unanimously voted to accept the reports as “curing” the compliance issues, gave the codes department and solicitor permission to notify Judy that the complaints would be withdrawn, and refunded $500 paid by the group for the appeal.

“What I’m a big fan of with local government is we want to fix things, not just looking to penalize people,” Chairwoman Anna Dale said, adding that she would be in favor of accepting the late reports.

Hafer said they had been fined $300 and about $90 in court costs. He believed they would have been fined more until it was resolved. Because it was resolved, Hafer said he believed the fines would be returned to them.

The supervisors asked if this would set a precedent.

“Do we lose our ability to enforce it if we accept this now?” Vice Chairman Mike Geyers asked. Diamond said it would not, because the residents had raised extenuating circumstances.

In 2013, the supervisors enacted the on-lot sewage disposal system management ordinance, which established regulations for installing, inspecting and maintaining sewage systems. The township was divided into two on-lot management districts and three sewer districts, and the districts were given a schedule on when their systems should be inspected and pumped.

Bares Tip is part of the on-lot management district that was to have septic systems pumped and inspected by June 30.

Bares Tip is part of Shelley Island not owned by Cube Hydro Partners. Recreational lot tenants on Beshore Island and the northern portion of Shelley Island owned by Cube Hydro lost their recreational lot leases over compliance concerns regarding the township’s floodplain ordinance and a Federal Emergency Management Agency inspection.

Hafer told the Press & Journal that they were informed in May 2017 that they needed to have their septic systems pumped. He said residents on Beech and Hill islands and Bares Tip met.

Beech and Hill island systems were pumped, and Bares Tip was supposed to be next.

“Then the monsoon hit,” Hafer said.

Because they’re on the tip of Shelley Island, the right-of-way has a natural spring, and with the rain over the summer, it never dried and a truck couldn’t make the journey to Bares Tip.

Only two haulers had trucks small enough to even get to the island by barge, Hafer said.

They appealed to request more time to get a pumper out there. The residents were later able to find a pumper who was willing to come out to the islands.

Hafer is from Stewartstown and been on Bares Tip since 1979.

Township codes and zoning officer Jeff Burkhart said the septic systems on Bares Tip had been dry and didn’t need to be pumped. Because residents use the island for recreation, Hafer said, people are typically on the island from May to October.

Diamond said this was the first time that this cycle had come up.

“I think now everyone understands the seriousness of these deadlines,” Diamond said.